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Uzbekistan Weekly Roundup

International and local human rights groups continue to chronicle the aftermath of the conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan and the further gruesome discoveries of death and destruction. Ultimately, their efforts to build a record -- if and when validated – both by international observers and national courts of law -- could serve to build a basis for justice and stabilization in the region. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva has agreed to permit the Organization of Security and Cooperation (OSCE) to begin an investigation into the conflict and deploy a police monitoring operation whose mandate is still being worked out, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported. Yet many questions remain about which bodies will conduct the investigation and the extent of cooperation that can be expected from the Kyrgyz military and police. At least 300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, were displaced and many are unable to return home and are in temporary housing.

Some 200 protesters in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh staged a demonstration on July 2 calling for the "internationalization" of the Kyrgyz army and law enforcement agencies, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Numerous reports indicate that the ethnic Uzbek community in the Osh region lacks confidence in the Kyrgyz Army due to its largely monoethnic composition. Human rights activists report that when Uzbek reserve officers responded to the Kyrgyz government's call for mobilization, they were rejected, and those who did manage to be deployed then had trouble collecting their pay and getting back identification submitted, after they helped maintain order during the referendum in June.

The Interim Committee to Cover Events in the South of Kyrgyzstan, formed by a number of civil society activists in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and abroad, issued another news brief (no. 5) covering reports from July 1-11, 2010. They recount the discrimination still being reported against Uzbeks who have tried to restore their lives. When business people come to try to make property loss claims to the police, they find themselves instead being inspected for tax evasion. The Interim Committee has a list of 2,700 people who have filed complaints of relatives killed and homes destroyed. At least 60 people, of whom 36 are Kyrgyz and the rest mainly Uzbeks have been declared missing.

In every conflict around the world, whether in Columbia or Bosnia or Sudan, the same sort of stories, surface, almost like "urban legends,” with exactly the same outlines: pregnant women are slashed and their fetuses torn from them; toddlers are hurled out of the upper stories of buildings; and the incubators in hospitals are turned off. These stories reflect the profound trauma that people in conflict are undergoing and their justifiable fears for the most vulnerable members of their communities. Often investigators later find that such grisly incidents never occurred. But sometimes they really do happen, and are documented, and fuel the rise of still more rumors. In southern Kyrgyzstan, many rumors of atrocities are circulating, and they become a factor of life in engendering distrust even if they are not proven. The Interim Committee has provided a photo of the body of one such pregnant woman reportedly slashed to death, and three people who claim to have witnessed her gruesome evisceration and murder. International groups have not yet verified the information. Other photos provided of murder victims show shocking brutality, such as the case of Hayrullo Tajibayev, brother of human rights activist Nematillo Botakozuev, was murdered by unknown Kyrgyz men at the market in Nookat.

The NGO Human Rights in Central Asia says they have received reports from people detained who have been subjected to beatings, torture, and sexual assault in order to obtain confessions. Two independent sources who requested anonymity described several cases of persons who had their spines and kidneys damaged from severe beatings and who were then allegedly thrown in a reservoir to drown.

These reports are fueling more rounds of violence. On July 9, several ethnic Uzbek men and women came to the passport office to obtain foreign passports, and suddenly were set upon and beaten by a mob of Kyrgyz women demanding that their husbands, who have reportedly been kidnapped, be returned.

Norwegian human rights activist Ivar Dale who has conducted fact-finding missions in ethnic Uzbek villages such as Nuriman, the site of a brutal police raid in June and the deaths of two detainees, says that both sides in the conflict are now further isolated than ever and their narratives of events are radically different and have become further entrenched. He has called for further involvement by northern Kyrgyz groups and international experts to listen to grievances by both sides and help establish accurate accounts. He has also criticized police for taking too harsh and distrustful an approach to Uzbek men charged with instigating violence.

Meanwhile, the ongoing repression of the Karimov government in Uzbekistan itself has been overshadowed by the events in southern Kyrgyzstan. More rounds of religious believers have been subjected to secret trials on charges that human rights groups say are fabricated. In a mass trial, Bukhara Regional Court handed down sentences on June 28 of between eight and six years on a group of nine men who were readers of the Turkish theologian Nursi, Forum 18 News Service reports.

Dmitry Tikhonov, a civic activist in the city of Angren working to expose police brutality and corruption, is facing more pressure from authorities, ferghana.ru reports. A case against him launched about two years ago on charges of attempted murder after he himself reported an assault by a subject of a corruption investigation has been revived, along with a separate libel case related to a child abuse investigation,

The Uzbek state media has been working on two fronts to consolidate more state control over civil society. On the one hand, the parliament is praising a new state fund to help NGOs and invoking unspecified foreign praise of this effort to provide some assistance to state-controlled groups that agree to work on safe subjects not posing any challenge to the regime. The claims for this ostensible encouragement of civil society are belied by the harsh oppression experienced by grassroots activists like Tikhonov. By contrast, state television propaganda is being whipped up about “evil Internet sites” that are “poisoning the minds of young people” and allegedly driving them to violent jihad. Any Islamic group that operates outside of strict state bounds is characterized as having been incited and funded by militants abroad to wage war on the country and install a caliphate.

Uzbekistan continues to antagonize its neighbors. Iran has complained that Uzbekistan is blocking the delivery by rail of construction materials to build the Sangtuda-2 hydroelectric plant in Tajikistan with Iranian assistance. Tashkent also terminated long-standing air-traffic agreements with neighboring Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan last month and held up a Tajik flight this month. Despite the difficulties with continued blockage of freight from Tajikistan, and other bureaucratic delays, the Pentagon is still relying on Uzbekistan to play a key part in the Northern Distribution Network to support deliveries to NATO’s troops in Afghanistan, and plans to construct $10 million in reinforcing border checkpoints.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick compiles the Uzbekistan weekly roundup for EurasiaNet. She is also editor of EurasiaNet's Choihona blog. To subscribe to Uzbekistan News Briefs, write uzbekistan@sorosny.org

Uzbekistan Weekly Roundup

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